Faculty Bulletin Board

18 UCLA researchers and scientists receive awards from UCLA Innovation Fund


Eighteen professors, researchers and clinicians at UCLA have been named recipients of awards from the 2017 UCLA Innovation Fund Biomedical Competition, which was established to quickly move technologies from idea to the marketplace and bridge the gap between academia and industry-investor interest to provide benefit to patients and the public. 

The money, up to $200,000 in some instances, is intended to advance projects toward project-specific milestones, which further enables these technologies to be licensed to an existing company or a startup. These funds support commercialization activities that would not usually be supported by basic research grants, allowing researchers to develop their technologies to a point where the chances of success are greatly increased.  Importantly, all awarded projects receive consultations from an outside industry and investor advisor panel that provides technical and commercial feedback key to technology development.

The UCLA Innovation Fund was established by the UCLA Technology Development Group in conjunction with UCLA Health, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, the School of Dentistry and the UCLA College’s divisions of life sciences and physical sciences.

“The collaboration between David Geffen School of Medicine, the Technology Development Group and other schools allowed UCLA’s Innovation Fund to become a leading effort in bridging the gap between academia and an investable opportunity,” said Amir Naiberg, associate vice chancellor, and president and CEO of UCLA Technology Development Corporation, who leads the UCLA Technology Development Group.

The applicants were evaluated on novelty, significance and potential public benefit, as well as the status of the intellectual property and other factors relating to the importance and relevance of the project.

“The combined expertise in scientific reviews conducted by faculty in the schools and business reviews conducted by TDG added to the success of the program,” said Dr. Kelsey Martin, dean of the medical school.

There were three tracks in the 2017 biomedical cycle: Therapeutics, Medical Device or Diagnostics and Digital Health.

Recipients for work in the therapeutics track:

  • Assistant professor of radiology Holden Wu and distinguished professor of chemistry Jeffery Zink were recognized for their work with a novel nanoparticle platform to control where and when cancer drugs are released to fight disease within a patient, with the hope of limiting damage to healthy tissue.  
  • Dr. Thomas Carmichael, professor of neurology, and Tatiana Segura, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, were awarded funds for their study of biomaterials for brain repair to aid in stroke recovery.
  • Ren Sun, professor of pharmacology and bioengineering, was honored for his research on rational Influenza vaccine design.
  • William Lowry, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and associate professor of biological chemistry Heather Cristofk and distinguished professor of chemistry Mike Jung were recognized for their work on stimulating hair growth in hair follicle stem cells.
  • Jung and Dr. Richard Pietras received their award for their study of drug resistance within ER-positive breast cancer.

Recipients for work in the medical devices or diagnostics track:

  • Segura and pediatric surgeon Dr. Nicholas Bernthal were awarded for their work on a novel antimicrobial coating to limit infections associated with orthopedic implants.  
  • Mona Jarrahi, professor of electrical engineering, was recognized for her project on terahertz imaging to improve quality control processes for dental patient products
  • Dr. Brian Koos of UCLA Health was honored for his research about non-invasive screening for gestational diabetes in the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Professor of cardiology and radiology Dr. Kalyanam Shivkumar and cardiologist Dr. Olcay Aksoy were honored for their progress on the creation of an artificial cord for minimally invasive mitral valve repair in the heart.

Recipients for work in the digital health track:

  • Assistant professor of neurosurgery and orthopedics Dr. Luke Macyszyn and neurological researcher Bilwaj Gaonkar were awarded for their work with computer-aided diagnosis of spinal disease.
  • Computer science researcher Navid Amini and ophthalmologist Dr. Kouros Nouri-Mahdavi were recognized for their project using head-mounted displays to compensate for neurological vision loss and enhance patients’ field of view.”

The two tracks for the UCLA Innovation Fund of 2018, Therapeutics and Medical Technology are currently open and close March 30. More information about eligibility and the application process for the 2018 tracks can be found at the Technology Development Group’s website.

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